DETROIT (AP) -The Dallas Cowboys can cross off a couple items on their to-do list in Detroit. They can clinch the NFC East and shut up Jon Kitna.
Dallas (11-1) might be equally motivated to do both.
Kitna said Cowboys linebackers were not effective, among other things, and ripped No. 56, Bradie James, in particular during a radio interview after leading the Lions to an improbable win at Dallas to end the 2006 regular season.
James said Sunday's game at Ford Field has been circled on his calendar all year and called Kitna's comments ``classless'' when the team returned from a long break after beating Green Bay.
``In a sense, we've all been called out,'' Dallas linebacker Kevin Burnett said.
It might not be the only comment Kitna ends up regretting.
Kitna insisted before the season he would be disappointed if the Lions didn't win 10 games, a bit of bravado for the leader of a team that lost an NFL-high 72 games the previous six seasons.
To avoid disappointment, the quarterback will have to help Detroit (6-6) pull off a stunning string of victories, starting with an upset over Dallas.
``That means they've got to beat us to get to 10,'' Cowboys receiver Terrell Owens said.
The Lions are double-digit underdogs at home against Dallas and will likely be so again on the road against San Diego and Green Bay next week and to close the regular season. They seem to have only one winnable game remaining, against Kansas City at home, but that's not a given by any means.
Detroit has crumbled in all phases to revert to the same-old Lions after being one of the surprise teams in the league by winning six of its first eight games.
The Cowboys, meanwhile, have followed a strong start with a six-game winning streak to earn their best 12-game record in franchise history.
Detroit's only hope is that the Cowboys are rusty because of a 10-day break.
The Cowboys have been off since beating Green Bay 37-27 in a Thursday night game. That win clinched a playoff berth and moved them within a victory of claiming a division title for the first time since 1998, and closer to securing home-field advantage for the NFC playoffs.
``We know what we're playing for and we've got to continue to play well and do our thing,'' linebacker Marcus Spears said. ``If we do that, all those questions that Kitna needs answered will be answered for him.''
Kitna prefaced his remarks last January by saying he needed to be careful because he knew the Lions were playing Dallas again this season. While preparing to play the Cowboys again, Kitna said the tone of his statements to the Seattle radio station had been lost.
``That was something that was unfortunately taken as serious that was said to my hometown radio station in fun,'' Kitna said Wednesday, the same day he didn't participate on a conference call with Dallas reporters as scheduled. ``It was certainly not meant to be used in a way to degrade players. I talk to that station frequently, but unfortunately those quotes haven't been taken in the way they were meant.''
Regardless of the interpretation, Kitna's words created another stir this season.
It appeared at the midway point of the schedule that he was going to have the last laugh about his bold statements entering the season, but he has become the face and mouth of what might end up being the NFL's laughingstock by the end of the month.
``I'm not saying he threw us under the bus, but he put us out there nationally with the 10-win prediction,'' receiver Roy Williams said earlier this year.
Williams might be out for the rest of the season with a knee injury, adding to Detroit's long list of woes.
Even if the Lions were healthy, the Cowboys seem set up to beat them and officially prevent them from reaching Kitna's magic number.
Tony Romo, Owens and Co. have helped Dallas average 32 points during its six-game winning streak. Overall, the Cowboys are averaging 391 yards of offense a game to trail only the Patriots' production.
Detroit has allowed at least 31 points in three of the last four games, all of them losses, while scoring an average of just 17.
But no one thought the Lions would win at Dallas last year when they were playing only for a pride against a team with something at stake.
``This year, we have something to play for. Last year, we didn't,'' said Kitna, clinging onto fading hopes of making the playoffs. ``We're backed into a corner, and we're going to have to earn out way out of it. That isn't going to be easy, and we can't make up for four losses in one day.''

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